Six/Ten Nurtures Economic Growth Through Strategic Investment
Carl J. “Bud” Strang III knows a good investment when he sees — or even when he hears about it.
As the chief executive officer of Six/Ten LLC in Winter Haven, Strang is principally involved in investing — in downtown commercial real estate and in a diverse number of innovative companies that are pitched well within growth-oriented industries.
Those are tangible things, assets that have been acquired by Six/Ten since Strang’s father, Carl J. Strang Jr., founded the company in 1985, with the goal “to help transform our community, preserving its authentic character, while paving the way for further economic success.”
Today, Six/Ten is also investing in an idea — the idea that many companies, institutions and organizations can come together and make positive, vibrant and long-lasting economic development a reality in Polk County.
Six/Ten is one of 53 investor organizations in the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC), Polk County’s primary engine for economic development. Active in the Winter Haven-area economic development efforts for years, Six/Ten came on board with the CFDC about three years ago after Bud Strang heard a pitch from a couple of officers on the council’s board of directors.
“They approached us,” Bud Strang says, mentioning Greg Littleton and Todd Dantzler in particular. Littleton is president and chief executive officer of Citizens Bank & Trust and a former two-time chairman of the CFDC board. Dantzler is a Polk County commissioner and the Board of County Commissioners’ representative on the CFDC executive committee.
“We had been more active with the Winter Haven EDC (Economic Development Council), but we always believed in the mission of the CFDC,” Strang says. “After talking with Greg, it was an easy decision to get involved.”
Strang also credits Dantzler for his role in a convincing presentation about the CFDC’s plan and vision.
Six/Ten’s investment in the CFDC is $2,500 per year. The investments from private sources are helping the council transition from a public-private economic development organization to a private one.
“Privatizing gives the organization flexibility to fulfill its mission,” says Strang, who currently serves as vice chairman of the CFDC board.
Like the recruitment of Six/Ten three years ago, Strang says the effort to bring new investors to the CFDC is an ongoing one.
“We’re always looking to expand our investor base. The organization can only be as strong as its base,” he says, adding that there’s no “magic number” for recruitment.
“Everyone brings different skills, experience and contacts to the table,” Strang says. “As the investor base grows, the CFDC only gets stronger.”
With Six/Ten’s leadership on board, the CFDC brain trust gets experience in commercial investment and redevelopment, high-tech operations, digital security, and industry diversification.
Six/Ten owns a number of commercial parcels and buildings, primarily in downtown Winter Haven, and has been actively engaged for years in their development or redevelopment. The most visible building is the multistory former GTE building, a hardened and carrier-grade structure centrally located in the Inland Fiber and Data Technology Park.
A diversified company, Six/Ten also owns or has preferred membership in Winter Haven-based-Protected Trust, a data privacy and security firm; Island Grove, Florida’s largest grower of organic blueberries and blackberries; NexLP, a Chicago-based company engaged in “e-discovery” and data fraud detection; and Auburndale-based Chemclad LLC., a manufacturer of decorated laminated panels and component parts for the casework, display, marine and furniture industries.
As a member of the CFDC’s executive committee, Strang is deeply involved in the decision-making required to transition the council to a privately run organization by Oct. 1 and relocate the council’s office from the Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale. He also has the opportunity to provide input when goals and priorities for the CFDC are being set. Those conversations often revolve around the kind of industries and jobs the council should help bring to Polk County.
“Being a high-tech company, we’d certainly like to see more higher-wage jobs, an experienced pool of employees with a technology background and related skills,” Strang says. “If we attract high-wage and high-tech jobs to Polk County, it’s not only a help to us (Six/Ten) but also to the other companies in our CFDC investor base.”
With the firm establishment of the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven, the LEGOLAND, Florida theme park and hotel in Winter Haven and Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Strang says “Things are lining up, and more and more companies are looking here as a possible home.”
While there are many opportunities for dynamic economic development in Polk County, Strang says the competition from other EDCs in Florida and around the nation can’t be denied or underestimated.
“It’s even more important that we have a strong CFDC,” he says. “The opportunities are going to be there, but we need to make sure that we’re in a position to capitalize on those opportunities.”